Stephen F. Austin State University

Women Hike Five Hundred Miles in 1914 (August 2013)

Women Hike Five Hundred Miles in 1914 (August 2013)

Women Hike Five Hundred Miles in 1914

By Deborah Burkett

I'm not ready to say good bye to summer. There's still time for a break before club meetings, special projects or other responsibilities reconvene. Opportunity for one more jaunt! Not sure if a five hundred mile hike is in my future but before Labor Day maybe I'll take a tour of the Hills of Cherokee at least.

In 1914, four adventuresome girls from Jacksonville decided to hike from Salt Lake City to Denver. The group was composed of Misses Allye Newsome, Nita Duke, Mozelle Newton and Rachel Frank. Their story was covered in the national press as well as pictorial spreads in numerous magazines. None of the girls were particularly athletic but despite blisters, sore muscles and overall aches and pains they achieved their goal.

In an article she wrote Rachel Frank described their experiences, "We were equipped with blankets, sleeping garments, one change of underwear and a few toilet articles. Even these became too heavy and before the end of our hike we discarded everything except the underwear."

Don't know about you but the mention of underwear by women in 1914 tells me these girls were brave and not afraid to challenge society's traditions. Heading out on their own without a man to protect them and also discussing under-garments, "My, my" as my great-grandmother would say!

But this behavior is understandable given these young women were in the midst of a revolution of sorts-suffragettes in Europe and the US were marching for the vote. Movie star Mary Pickford made news when for the first time an actress's name was displayed on the marquee above the movie title.

Stories of spunky women in Cherokee County shouldn't surprise me. Only last year I wrote a column based on the amazing story of Lettie Baker, first woman elected to countywide office before she could even vote. Her adventuresome side is evident by the following exert, "…They announced at the picture show Saturday night that the plane would be ready to take passengers Sunday morning and a crowd gathered in the aviation field after breakfast. Miss Lettie Baker, our County Treasurer, was the first passenger 'to break the ice' and take a sail into the clouds!"

"Life is short and it's up to us to make it sweet." This sentiment must have been part of the philosophy these women embraced. Who knows, I may have to re-think my plans and spread my wings a little more before summer is spent.

The girls wore rainproof skirts and hats, woolen shirts, bloomers and mountain boots. Green ties and red sweaters were tied around their waist in the heat of the day. Rachel Frank explained, "Our costume afforded a great deal of amusement to the people we met."